In just over a week -- September 5 at 4:00 p.m. to be exact -- all NFL rosters will be set in stone. Or at least written in ink.
Rosters are fluid and change throughout the season thanks to injuries, suspensions and other factors. But the initial lineups will soon be due, and a number of players who are currently straddling the fence can improve their cases to be included on the roster. Here are five to watch this weekend.
If a person's story was good enough to get him on a roster, Finney might be a starter. He grew up in a home of Steelers fans and was expected to be drafted on day three. His name was never called, but he ended up being contacted by his favorite team and signed as an undrafted free agent.
Desire and personal story are never enough, though Finney has at times acquitted himself well during the pre-season. He looked slow and lost early, but has come around, particularly in the most recent game. He appeared much more technically sound and his footwork has improved.
Playing in his favor is the recent poor play of several other offensive linemen, including Mitchell Van Dyk, Miles Dieffenbach and Chris Hubbard, who spent time on the team's roster last season.
If Finney is going to make the roster, he will likely need to push Hubbard out the door. That's never an easy task in Pittsburgh, where returning players generally enjoy the benefit of the doubt. But Hubbard was literally that bad against the Packers, so it's possible.
Murphy's road to an NFL roster may have just gotten easier, if only temporarily.
Thanks to Martavis Bryant's suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, announced Thursday, Murphy may have defaulted onto the week-one roster. Bryant won't count against the team's roster count for the first four games, opening a spot for Murphy. All he has done this pre-season is catch everything thrown his way -- this, despite converting from quarterback to receiver during the off-season.
The team is unlikely to keep six receivers on the roster for the full season, so Murphy is likely to revert to the practice squad following the first game against Baltimore. If they do choose to keep six, though, Murphy has made himself a good case. In fact, his only competition may be from...
This one may seem a bit of a stretch at first glance, but Doe has been both as bad and as good as anyone else in the return game so far during the pre-season. Because he has that ability, at least on paper, there could be a spot on the roster for him should he break a good return or two in the final two warm-up games. But he will need to demonstrably outperform running back Dri Archer, who is pretty nearly guaranteed a spot for at least the 2015 season.
HoJo has quite the fan following in Pittsburgh. His physical prowess has become the thing of Isaac Redman-like legend. Unfortunately for Jones, that's the vast majority of what he has going in his favor right now.
Jones is competing, primarily, with 2015 draft pick Anthony Chickillo for a fifth outside linebacker position that may or may not even exist at this point. The team has not, in recent memory, carried five OLBs to start the season.
But this year could be different.
With far more uncertainty on the outside than at inside linebacker, keeping a fifth there has become a real possibility. Which would be good news for HoJo, who has made a few pretty spectacular plays. However, he also still does not fully understand the finer aspects of the game, and relies far too much on his physical gifts. That works in college. In the pro game? Not so much.
Right now, Chickillo has been less spectacular, but on both sides of the coin: he hasn't made plays that have wowed anyone, but he also hasn't made the kinds of mistakes Jones has made all too often.
Like Jones, Wild is playing for a position that may not even exist. The safety field has been a bit crowded, though it has never been in doubt that at least three spots are already locked down: Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell are week-one starters, while Will Allen will be the primary backup. Robert Golden, last year's special teams captain, is just about a lock, too. Wild is competing, primarily, with Gerod Holliman and Ross Ventrone, but Wild has been the only one to consistently set himself apart for positive reasons.
Saturday's game could be the last chance for a few of these guys. One or more may not make it past the 75-man cut-down. If they do, they still have one more hurdle to clear. It certainly won't be easy for any of them.